Architectural Archives

Mario Romañach: "Do you love architecture?"

Monday, December 4, 2017Monday, May 14, 2018
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Harvey & Irwin Kroiz Gallery, Architectural Archives
220 South 34th Street, Philadelphia


A beloved teacher at the University of Pennsylvania and a visionary architect who transformed modern architecture in his native Cuba in the years before the Revolution, Mario Romañach (1917-84) saw architecture, not as an abstract phenomenon to be developed though analytical techniques, but rather, as a discipline which made full sense only when framed in terms of human experience. “’ve got to touch it,” he would say, and it was that sensuous, experiential connection to buildings, cities, and landscapes that animated his art and inspired his students. 
Marking the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Romañach’s birth, this exhibition presents a survey of his work, ranging from his groundbreaking residential designs in Havana to large-scale urban redevelopment plans for the West Side of New York City.
Born in Havana, Romañach, was educated in turbulent decades marked by prosperity, depression, war, and changing artistic sensibilities. His uncle, the painter Leopoldo Romañach, was a significant influence. Formal training in architecture came at the University of Havana.  In the fourteen year period between 1945 and 1959, Romañach established a successful practice initially based on residential projects. These works, and his later large-scale urban planning, demonstrate his firm commitment to the ideals of the modern movement shaped and enriched by an understanding of local conditions and an interest in Cuban and Spanish culture. 
Exiled from Cuba, Romañach and his family arrived in the United States during the fall of 1959. The practice that had been the center of his artistic world collapsed, never to be fully regained. Teaching, at first, provided for his transition, but then became his life’s work. That energy - so tied to building - ultimately was channeled to his students; a love of architecture perpetuated. 
This exhibition has been organized to mark the gift of materials related to the life and work of architect Mario Romañach to PennDesign’s Architectural Archives. Donated by his daughter Maria, this collection includes drawings, models, photographs, and papers for projects located in the United States and Venezuela, as well as the architect’s native Cuba. 
Mario Romañach: “Do you love architecture?” has been made possible by the generous support of the Georgia Hencken Perkins Endowment and the Friends of the Architectural Archives. Additional support provided by the Office of the Dean of the School of Design. 
Special thanks to:  Maria Romañach and G. Frank Karreman for guidance in curatorial selections, Richard Farley for his enthusiasm and energy, and Martin Dominguez for recollections of Romañach’s thought; Heather Isbell Schumacher, Katherine Ku, Shubhan Nagendra, Erisa Nakamura, and Eric Pfeifer of the Architectural Archives for their fast work and good spirit in mounting the exhibition; PennDesign colleagues, Fritz Steiner, Jenny Laden, Jeff Snyder, Michael Grant, Kate McCann, Sandi Mosgo, and Karl Wellman for their countless acts of kindness; and to Belmont Freeman, Raul Rodriguez, and Victor Ramos for unearthing important photos and making them available for this exhibition. 
The Architectural Archives recognizes the Kroiz Family for their early and enduring support of our exhibition and outreach programs through their establishment of the Kroiz Gallery - a unique venue to engage in the exploration of architectural imagination, and PennDesign overseer, Larry Korman, for his commitment to our staff and to our bright future.